AB InBev Digital Transformation at Scale
First piloted in 2019, Anheuser-Busch In Bev’s (AB InBev) BEES B2B sales platform has evolved into a truly stunning example of digital transformation at scale. Originally part of an ongoing company-wide initiative to continue advancing toward being a truly customer-centric organization, the BEES project was accelerated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit the restaurant industry hard. AB InBev partnered with Rightpoint to reimagine and reengineer the platform’s architecture and system design, effectively architecting a custom, full-scale e-Commerce platform that provides a center of excellence, which can be easily and quickly scaled across hundreds of regions worldwide.
Starting with a Strategy
AB InBev’s customers were facing some very real challenges. Like many small- and medium-sized retailers around the world, they were battling to thrive despite poor service, limited or no access to information, and an unequal power balance with vendors.
To help overcome these challenges, AB InBev undertook a digital transformation that would put their customers at the heart of the business. The goal was to bring the power of digital to these retailers and the companies that service them, unlocking new growth opportunities for all.
The idea behind BEES (AB InBev’s B2B e-Commerce and SaaS platform) was to shift the buying process from the traditional, on-the-ground salesperson to a digital platform that empowers business owners to manage their inventory and orders in whatever way best suits their needs. Within the BEES platform, buyers can see all the products, deals, and discounts in one centralized location. They can also place orders directly, when it’s most convenient for them.
While the concept was strong, AB InBev was having trouble finding a partner who could deliver the levels of quality and scalability that were necessary to support the company’s vast global network of customers. Initial versions of the self-service distribution platform were only partially successful. Launched in various markets, these implementations were very unstable and difficult to replicate from one region to another. The labor-intensive process forced AB InBev to more or less start from scratch in each new market.
In short, the technology they were using was inefficient and ineffective, and it was holding them back.
Working with Rightpoint, AB InBev began to develop a new strategy that included a complete shift in their mindset. Rather than focusing on replicating technology multiple times (and having to adapt it each time), they transitioned to a hub-and-spoke strategy that focused on creating a center of excellence built on a core technology investment. This initial investment would provide a foundation from which they could deliver value across all future implementations.
AB InBev engaged Rightpoint to handle a broad range of capabilities across strategy, performance, architecture, system design, data structures, and development on the project.
One of the first major steps in the evolution of the platform was decoupling it from several key pieces of third-party software. The team needed to establish the platform’s independence from other software products outside of AB InBev because that was the only way to truly own the front-end experience in its entirety. Eliminating reliance on external elements would give them the ability to build and integrate a number of custom-built features and other elements. It would also eliminate the inconvenience and inherent risk of being bound by the database structures, design constraints, release schedules, security protocols, and other external restrictions of these very opinionated ecosystems.
BEES is much more than just a website. It’s a full-scale e-Commerce platform. Working in close collaboration, Rightpoint and ABinBev completely redesigned and reengineered the architecture, moving from a monolithic architecture to a service-oriented, multi-tenant architecture that is comparable for B2B in sophistication and versatility to a platform like Shopify. It runs multiple applications on a single infrastructure and provides provisioned access that allows teams in different countries to do their jobs without having to interact with each other.
This system design, combined with a new headless react commerce, delivers significantly better performance than earlier versions. Compared to the original technology, which sometimes required as many as 13 seconds to complete certain tasks, the new platform delivers a response time of sub one second.
In addition to driving the evolution of the overall BEES platform, Rightpoint also built two proof-of-concept applications, which AB InBev ultimately integrated into the main platform:
- BEES Apiary — This administrative tool allows AB InBev teammates to look up customer information, orders, and other account and transaction details. It provides access to the behind-the-scenes activity that helps them quickly troubleshoot any issues and serve their customers more efficiently.
- Smart Translation Tool — Anticipating that translation across markets in so many different countries would be a challenge, Rightpoint also developed a tool to alert local developers to translation errors. This tool then makes it easy for developers to make bulk changes (rather than having to code manual, word-by-word changes) by giving them a way to see all the available languages in a side-by-side display.
“Rightpoint is the kind of partner we needed. They were in lockstep with us from the very beginning, always focused on helping us meet our targets, and committed to pushing the boundaries with innovative suggestions to help us take the BEES platform to the next level. This was a very successful collaboration that helped us deliver a digital transformation that is making a real difference for our customers.”
To-date, Rightpoint has helped AB InBev launch BEES in 14 countries, and there are more countries coming on board all the time. There are already 6 new implementations planned for 2022. The new platform makes it possible to launch in a new country in as few as ten weeks, a mere fraction of the 8+ months it took with the old versions.
AB InBev now has the high-quality, fully scalable eCommerce platform that they envisioned for their customers and their business. BEES plays a very direct role in helping AB InBev customers improve their sales and profitability, all while delivering a superior experience and better performance than either the traditional buying experience or the earlier versions of the BEES platform.
Million Orders Per Week (+20% vs Q2) in Q3 2021
Billion Gross Merchandise Value (+20% vs Q2) in Q3 2021
Million Monthly Active Users (+17% vs Q2) in Q3 2021
- Program Management
- Commerce Consulting
- Product Management
- Business Analyst
- Developer Management & Consulting
- Project & Agile Management
- Quality Assurance
- Production Support
- Automated Testing
- React – StoryBook, Testing Library, Enzyme
- Node JS
- Azure DevOps
- Atlassian Products: Jira, Confluence
- New Relic